The Hundred needs to be for everyone – the possible changes still alienate traditional cricket fans

Oval Invincibles Men (left) and Southern Brave Women celebrate winning their respective championships
Oval Invincibles Men (left) celebrate winning the men's Hundred as Southern Brave Women celebrate victory in the women's tournament - Getty Images/Julian Finney

Five possible options are being presented to the 18 first-class counties, as revealed by Telegraph Sport, to address the vexed question of the future of the Hundred. But none addresses the fundamental issue.

The fundamental issue is that the format alienates a large proportion, probably a majority, of traditional cricket followers.

The innovators who devised the Hundred - primarily Trent Woodhill, the Australian white-ball coach hired by the ECB - tried to reinvent the wheel. They tried to replace the six-ball over with the five-ball set, and the proof of the pudding is in the eating: no other country has copied the five-ball set.

This is the basic point, and all the business plans about future investment and scheduling are pieces of cart which ought to come after this horse.

I see some good features in the Hundred. Having followed county cricket with immense enjoyment for sixty years, and having just published a book about it titled “Disappearing World”, I recognise that younger generations - who are not born in traditional counties and shires but in West Midlands or Greater Manchester - are not going to identify in the same way as their fathers and forefathers did.

They will identify with Birmingham Phoenix and London Spirit, and if a city-based franchise competition brings in several hundred thousand new supporters each summer, well and good for cricket, although I wish it would not take up more than three weeks of the season’s prime time.

I also concede that the five-ball set seems to work for the Women’s Hundred. This is probably because there had never been a domestic women’s six-ball competition of real prominence, and certainly not played by professionals. New fans are coming to a new competition, and are clever enough to work out the new scoring system.

But that still leaves the wheel in the Men’s Hundred. And its replacement, in the eyes of traditional followers, is an unwieldy, rectangular block of wood which drags the game back.

Along with all these business investment possibilities, the ECB - and as it has a new hierarchy they do not have to swallow their pride - should trial formats which are based on 100 balls for each side, so they can preserve the name of Hundred and a shorter game than the ever-longer T20, but use the wheel. And make the Hundred more dramatic than it is, when so many matches die out in the second innings.

Fifteen six-ball overs then one ten-ball over guarantees a game with more dramatic possibilities. The first innings comes to a climax with a ten-ball over - who will bowl it, and how many runs will be scored off it? Perhaps 30 or 40 if the batsman on strike is set.

Then the second innings run-chase never fades away. As long as there are a few wickets in hand, the side chasing can go into the last over still in with a chance even if 40 or 50 runs are needed. A flustered bowler could end up bowling a couple of wides and a no-ball.

Or if you insist on abandoning the wheel, another version would be ten ten-ball sets i.e. five bowlers would have to bowl two ten-ball sets. They could be brutal confrontations, real duels, in which the two batsmen try to destroy a bowler. Gladiatorial cricket - and a far cry from the five-ball set when the bowler can go away and hide after conceding a few boundaries, to be replaced by a flat offspinner.

I do not claim to know what the solution is. But I am certain that the Men’s Hundred could be a lot more interesting than it is. Cricket is brilliantly flexible, like no other sport. Just give these alternative formats a proper trial, before this season descends into winter, or else next spring. Then the Hundred could be made into a sport for almost all.

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